Ben Askren On Jay Hieron: “I Sure Am Going To Enjoy Beating His Ass”
By Kelsey Mowatt
It’s taken Ben Askren less than three years to become Belllator’s welterweight champion, and in the process, answer much of the hype that surrounded the decorated wrestler’s arrival into the sport. While Askren has further proven his abilities by recording wins over vets like Dan Hornbuckle, Nick Thompson and Lyman Good, many would likely argue that his toughest test to date is about to take place on October 29th, when he fights Jay Hieron.
“I think he’s probably above everyone I’ve fought,” said Askren about Hieron. “But not nearly as much above as he thinks he is.”
Hieron will head into his Bellator 56 bout with Askren having won ten straight fights, a run which includes noteworthy wins over UFC vets like Jesse Taylor and Jason High. In addition, the 35 year-old, Xtreme Couture fighter scored a split decision win over Rick Hawn in May, to win Bellator’s welterweight tourney and a crack at the promotion’s belt. Although Askren believes Hieron’s the best fighter he has yet to face, that doesn’t mean the 27 year-old is overly worried that his title reign will come to an end later this month.
“I’m not really concerned with any part of the fight,” Askren told FCF. “I’ve been training full time at Duke’s (Roufus) for close to three months now, and wherever the fight happens to be I’ll feel comfortable.”
On paper, Hieron (22-4) could be the best wrestler Askren has faced thus far in MMA, due to the veteran’s own collegiate experience and lengthy stint at Xtreme Couture’s. Despite this however, the four time All American and former Olympic wrestler is confident he’ll have a decided advantage in the grappling department.
“Not at all,” said Askren when asked if he’s concerned about Hieron’s wrestling abilities. “What Jay fails to realize is that there are people ten times as good as him who I take down with ease. So he’s overestimating his skills and I think that will make it easier for me in the fight.”
“I think it’s pretty obvious,” Askren added, when asked if he believes Hieron will look to keep the fight standing. “He definitely doesn’t have a lot of skills on the ground as far as jiu-jitsu’s concerned, so if the fight goes there it’s overwhelmingly in my favor.”
Upon Hieron’s Bellator arrival, the established veteran was an early favorite to win the welterweight competition and secure a bout with Askren. In other words, both men have been fielding questions about the other for several months now, further contributing to the upcoming fight’s storyline.
“It will be a little bit of business, a little bit of pleasure,” Askren said when asked if over the last few months things have gotten personal between him and Hieron. “I’m going to get in there and take care of business, but I sure am going to enjoy beating his ass.”
When FCF caught up with Duke Roufus recently, the renowned coach heaped praise on Askren for not only the wrestling and grappling expertise he’s brought the Wisconsin based team, but how the welterweight has taken to striking.
“I moved here because I knew how strong of a coach Duke was in the stand-up game,” said Askren. “That’s what I wanted; I wanted a great stand-up coach. At this point I have the wrestling background and I’m a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, and I feel pretty comfortable with anyone on the ground, except maybe someone like Marcelo Garcia or Pablo Popovitch, but they don’t fight, so I’m okay.”
“I’m getting a lot more comfortable on my feet but I know I can still get a lot better,” Askren furthered. “I definitely integrated well with our team; I really enjoy the coaching, enjoy the teammates, we’re a pretty close team so it’s good.”
If Askren defeats Hieron on October 29th, it will only heighten debate and discussion as to where the Bellator champion sits in the world welterweight rankings. Despite having only fought eight times, Askren has already become one of the sport’s more monitored competitors not signed to a Zuffa contract.
“Obviously I feel like I can fight with any of the guys that are up there ranked highly,” Askren said. “I’m fine ranked where I’m at; I haven’t beaten those guys yet so I haven’t proved that I’m as good as them, but I feel that given the chance I will.”
While it remains to be seen what the long term future holds for Askren, particularly if he continues to ascend the welterweight rankings, the Wisconsin fighter is clearly happy with how Bellator has been working to increase its profile.
“I think they’re definitely making some good moves,” said Askren. “Now that they’ve moved to FSN, MTV 2 and hopefully onto Spike, obviously Bjorn (Rebney) is doing a great job. They’re constantly signing new and solid prospects; I think they’re signing some new guys at my weight for next season’s tournament so that’s exciting.”